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The Lakers After 10 Games

By Jesse Cretaro

So the Lakers have laid a real egg the past few games. However, if you are worried, don’t be. It’s only November and they are playing accordingly. Not to say that they simply don’t care in November, but Phil Jackson has always maintained that the season is a marathon, not a sprint. Due to this, he never puts too much emphasis on any single game. There are obviously some games that the Laker players may be more up for than others, and we as fans definitely get excited about match-ups against other top-notch teams. Phil is always Phil though—it takes a heck of a lot to get him excited and get him up from his seat. How this relates to us as fans is that we may be in for plenty of frustration watching the Lakers during the regular season.

Before I delve more deeply into what I expect, or don’t expect, to see from the Lakers during the regular season, let me make a few points so I am not misunderstood. First off, the Lakers will still end up with either the best or one of the best records in the Western Conference, and the entire NBA, for that matter. They can almost do this off of pure talent though. They do still have great depth although Phil seems to currently have no trust for either Jordan Farmar or Sasha Vujacic at this point. I don’t think he would trust either of them to carry a bucket of water down the street, let alone be out on the floor when the game is on the line. When Gasol comes back and Odom moves to the 2nd unit, they may then actually have a full second unit, which is not the case right now. Also of note to start the season is that Gasol has yet to play in a single game due to his hamstring injury; and Kobe has been playing the last few games with a strained groin, which is limiting his ability to truly be himself. It’s no coincidence that he started off the regular season on a rampage, but his numbers have been down the past few games—his groin is limiting his ability to do everything he wants.

So yes, Kobe’s injury did have something to do with Phil keeping Kobe out the entire 4th quarter against the Nuggets. However, that game meant a heck of a lot more to the Nuggets than it did the Lakers, and it showed. I did think the Lakers were going to win the game when early in the 3rd quarter, Kenyon Martin, being the thug that he is (I’m sorry, but Mark Cuban was right; Denver’s whole team is tatted up but c’mon, this guy has lips on his neck like he’s a Cholo, for goodness sake!) got into it with Lamar and really got under Lamar’s skin. Lamar is typically the sleeping giant and it is bad news for teams to wake up the giant. However, nothing came out of this because Denver overall was willing to give it a lot more effort than the Lakers were. I hate to tell you to get used to this and that there will be many more games that the Lakers will throw in the towel early, but I have a hunch.

The Lakers are the defending champs and the champs generally don’t need a confidence boost to know that they are capable of winning the title. This means that the Lakers really don’t have any statement games on their schedule at this point; every team wants to make a statement against them though. The one game that I could see the Lakers really getting into gear to win is the first time they play Portland in Portland. The Lakers have lost something like 11 or 12 straight in the Rose Garden and really want this streak to come to an end.

I am not saying that I expect the Lakers to go through most of the regular season acting like they don’t care. Phil will make sure they do not get complacent so they aren’t going to drop a bunch of games in a row or anything like that. Kobe will also make sure of this—he is such a tremendous competitor and will not allow his teammates to be lazy. However, an example of what I do expect to see in a handful of games was on display against Denver. The Nuggets really needed this game much more than the Lakers, because they wanted to prove something to themselves after getting blown out by LA in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. They came out very physical and were beating the Lakers up a bit. Whereas the Lakers stood their ground and fought back during the playoffs, when they realized they weren’t going to get any calls and the game was physically getting a little too rough, they decided to throw in the towel. Now, it may not be fun as fans to watch them do that. We expect to see them always fight back. However, because the regular season is a marathon and Phil wants to have his players avoid injury, if a game starts to get out of control as it did this past Friday night, he’s going to throw it in and use the game as an opportunity to work on some things. That’s Phil being Phil. He’s also going to do plenty of what he known for this year, if his team’s not playing well and momentum has started to shift the other way, he’s still not going to call any quick timeouts. He’s going to let his team play and allow them to try to figure it out themselves, as he has been doing for years now. He’s only going to call timeouts if something has really gotten under his skin or things are really starting to fall apart for his team. Hey, the man has more titles than any other coach in NBA history; he knows what he’s doing. Being smart always wins.


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